SIR,—In your story headed " New Constitution for Malta," the introduction to which I did not write, it is stated that " there are three warring factions in Malta, the native Maltese, the English authorities, and the Italians . . . it is feared in some British circles that the Catholic clergy in Malta—mainly Italian—is using its influence to further Italian political aims."
This statement does not exactly correspond with my experience of Malta, who am your local correspondent here.
In the first place, it is hardly right to speak of " three warring factions "; there are, perhaps, six English officials, including the
Governor and Lieutenant-Governor in the administration, all the rest, including the judiciary, being of Maltese-British nationality. Out of a general population of 260,000, perhaps 5,000 are from the British Isles, and the last police aliens' return showed something like 500 citizens of Italian nationality: in other words, Malta is peopled by the Maltese, not by three warring factions.
The same with the remark, " the Catholic clergy in Malta — mostly I tal Ian."
Our clergy are entirely Maltese; true, there are usually sonic visiting priests and nuns, an order of Italian Salesians, for example, which works hand in hand with English Salesians. It would not be untrue to say that, being in many cases educated in Italy, and understanding the Latin viewpoint and character better than the Anglo-Saxon and being at one with the Catholics of Italy in questions of faith and morals, many of the higher clergy may lean culturally and spiritually towards the Italians—as do many of the legal profession, for the reason that Italian was for centuries the language of culture here and the law is Roman.
But to label the clergy of Malta as being set upon furthering Italian political influence (at the moment at so low an ebb that many thinking Maltese wish it were stronger as a means of tempering the dictatorial methods of the Colonial Office) is a libel upon a body of men who have ever been loyal to the British connection and loyal to their island nation most of all.
Despite the fact that in the new form of constitution the clergy lose their historic right to accept the suffrage of their fellow-man, and may not be elected to the council of government; and despite the additional fact that a financial commission has proposed extending a new corporation tax to Church property (without, it seems, a " by your leave ") the clergy of Malta were represented at the proclamation of our unpopular and unwanted constitution. Politeness demanded that their vicars-general should represent the Archbishop of Malta and the Bishop of Gem; the cathedral chapters of the two islands were represented by the senior canon in each case.
That. there have been and probably will always be clergy and professional men who feel that Malta's destinies would more naturally and happily run with those of Italy is perfectly true, and it is ie combating the possible influence of these politically honest, however misguided, men, that the evil effect Of the loose morals and bad manners of so many of our local temporary residents from Britain makes itself most felt.
Relations between the British authorities and the clergy of Malta have ever been something more than cordial, and it is a matter for satisfaction to even the most rabid anti-English critic that, whilst Ills Grace the ArchbishopBishop flies a small yellow and white pennon on the radiator of his car when in Malta, in Rome he sports a small Union Jack as a British prelate.
YouR MALTA CORRESPONDENT.
Sea—Permit me to offer a few remarks in reply to Professor Acquiline, of Malta. My excuse for writing is, that Professor Aequiline has omitted facts, the knowledge of which is essential if one wants to do justice to the Maltese clergy.
The Maltese are what providence made them, vie., a Latin race mainly of Italian descent, and British subjects since 1800. Before that date, for over 2,000 years, Malta had always been considered as part of Italy; and for about 800 years Italian was the official language of the Maltese and the language of their culture and traditions.
I have yet to meet a Maltese priest who is opposed to the teaching of English and British history. But, is not Professor Acquiline exacting too much of the clergy when he invites them to throw overboard their centuries' old Latin culture, in order to establish new cultural contact with England? " Man liveth not by bread alone," and, as G. K. Chesterton said, "God gives us our neighbours " and Malta's nearest neighbour is Italy. Professor Acquiline accused the Maltese clergy of lack of imagination. Has he forgotten that the first English college opened in Malta had as its principal, Dr. Achilli—an apostate? And when he mentions that the first translation of the New Testament in the vernacular was made by the Church Missionary Society, he omits to add that the society was also the first to obtain permission from the Government for a printing press. No wonder the Catholic Action daily, Lenett is-Seuun, is uncompromising against the so-called Maltese language.
A good memory does not necessarily imply lack of imagination.
For the sake of argument, I accept the Professor's sweeping statement that " Malta's humiliating disgrace is a mainly illiterate population." Who is to blame if this statement is true? When England took over Malta. she found already established there a university founded by the Knights of St. John. Not a mean achievement for a population of under a hundred thousand! For over 125 years the island has been under the control of the Colonial Office; if, theree fore, illiteracy is prevalent in the island, that deplorable state of affairs is Malta's misfortune, not her humiliating disgrace.
HENRY BUGEJA, O.P. St. Dominic's Priory, Stone, Staffs.